CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Toomey on Scams and Seniors

James Toomey has posted Our Fraud Problem on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

We think of frauds and scams as primarily a problem for older adults. In the past few years, states and the federal government have passed a range of statutes designed to prevent seniors, as distinct from other adults, from scams—from more harshly punishing scams directed towards older adults to authorizing financial institutions to more closely monitor and rapidly freeze the accounts of older clients. This successful, popular, and bipartisan law reform movement has taken place without a thorough empirical understanding of whether in fact seniors are scammed more frequently than other age groups.

This study analyzed whether older adults fell victim to scams more frequently than younger adults during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. A group of Americans older than 65 (n=364) and a group age 25–35 (n=388) were recruited online and asked to complete a short survey about their experiences with frauds and scams during the pandemic. The results were statistically analyzed to assess whether the two groups expressed that they were solicited by, engaged with, and were aware of consequences from four specific common scams of the pandemic and a catch-all final question.

The results were striking. The younger group engaged with scams three times more frequently than the older group, and this disparity was statistically significant (12% to 4%; χ2 = 16.41; p = .000051). Moreover, more younger adults engaged with scams than older adults as a percentage of those who had been solicited—that is, younger adults were more susceptible to scams. Therefore, in crafting our legal response to the challenge of frauds and scams, we must acknowledge that the problem is not limited to—and may not even be most prevalent among—seniors.

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